July 27, 2005 - Joanne

Recipe: Rack of Lamb

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One of our favorite house dishes is incredibly easy to make and is always satisfying. Our 3 year-old is a huge lamb rib fan and we fondly call it Lamb-i-kins.
We almost always serve it with baked potatoes
and a green vegetable – whatever is
in season (peas, asparagus, spinach, green beans).
The whole thing takes less than an hour.

For 2-3 people…
(8 Ribs will feed 4 not-big eaters - you would need two racks (16 ribs) for four adults.

What You Need:  

2-3lb Rack of Lamb - Frenched if you like it that way

3-4 Russet Potatoes - Baby ones cook faster, but regular size are fine

Generous amounts of Salt (I like a coarser salt - but use what you have) and Pepper (preferably fresh ground) - I also often use Penzeys Lamb Seasoning, Prime Rib Rub or Mingnotte Pepper. If you don't have those and want more than just salt and pepper, try adding some crushed dry rosemary (or chopped fresh), some crushed celery seed, or some chopped sage to the salt and pepper mixture.

1/2c – 1c Cognac or or Brandy or Calvados, or Sherry or Marsala or some sort of alcohol that you can imagine drinking with lamb - I've even used Bourbon. (Fortified wine works better than red wine but whatever you have is fine - What you use will really change the flavor. My first choice is cognac or brandy.)
Olive Oil

2 large handfuls of English unshelled peas – (you can also get by with ½ package of frozen organic shelled peas in a pinch)
1 handful of awesome green beans – otherwise leave them out.

1 bunch of in-season asparagus – with the woody bottoms broken off.
Olive Oil

Butter (Optional)

What to do:

Take lamb rack out of the fridge up to 2 hrs before cooking it. If you have less time it's fine... it's just optimal to not shock the fridge cold meat before searing it - it will work though if you don't have time.
Preheat oven to 450°F.
Wash and stick a fork into 3-4 russet potatoes - put them in the heating up oven and forget about them until later.
** Place the asparagus in an oven-proof dish and sprinkle with sea salt and a generous amount of olive oil – turn to coat. Shell the peas and cut green beans into 1” pieces – set aside. (if using frozen peas they are ready to cook at this point – no need to thaw them)
About 40 minutes before you want to eat, dry the rack with paper towels if it looks wet. Rub the lamb over all with your combined salt and pepper mix (don't feel you have to add anything else other than salt and pepper). 
Find an oven-proof sauté pan big enough for the lamb and small enough that you can get the asparagus in alongside it. The sauté pan needs to have a little bit of side on it, as you will be adding liquid before you put it in the oven
Place into this pan a tbsp of Olive Oil over high heat on your stovetop. When oil is hot but not smoking, add the rack and sear it (till it turns golden on all sides). About 5 minutes total.
Turn off the heat and dump the cognac over the top of the rack. There will be lots of white smoke - be careful if using gas that you don't have a burner turned on when you do this or you will have fire with the smoke (which works to burn off the alcohol but I'm still not comfortable with it - try at your own peril). In about 1-2 minutes the smoke will clear and the liquid will reduce by itself because of the heat of the pan. If you have burned bits stuck in the pan feel free to scrape them around and into the sauce at this point.

Then put the pan in the oven.  Put the prepared asparagus dish into the oven as well.

Check the potatoes - they will have an internal temperature of 200F when they are done, or you can stick a fork in them to see if they are cooked through.

*** Meanwhile in a medium frying pan heat a tbsp of butter and ½ tbsp of Olive Oil over medium heat. Add the beans and the peas stirring well and when they start to get bright green turn off the heat and let them finishing cooking with the residual heat (if you are using frozen peas you want to wait until the beans are just starting to turn color then add the peas and cook for 1-2 mins more and turn the heat off.)

The lamb needs 20-30 minutes depending on how big your rack was. You want to take it out when the internal temp of the center of the rack reads about 125F for medium rare (120F for rare). The temperature will raise about 5 degrees after you remove the rack. Most of the time I forget and it makes it to about 130 before I remove it from the oven. That's okay. It will still be medium rare - just a bit further towards the medium. The asparagus is done when starts to get slightly pliable and get a nice golden cast to it.

Let it rest 5-10 minutes before carving it - if your family can wait that long. It really does make a difference.

The Challenge: Uncle Wiggly's Good Time Cooking Contest - Version Weekday at Meathenge ran a contest that challenges you to write a recipe for a common everyday meal - one you have at least once a month - probably 2 or 3 times a month. Here's my go at it! Enjoy!

An 8 Rib Rack of Lamb - Uncooked
(this one is Frenched)

The Searing of the Rack - this is what it should look like before it goes into the oven - it's okay if there's a little more liquid in the pan.

The Peas & Beans!

The Finished Rack - resting for 5-10 minutes

To Slice it - Cut between the Sticking out Bones.

The Rave Review!

Optional - Spinach Instructions:

Instead of Asparagus or Peas/Green Beans you can use Spinach or any other green vegetable. Here are the instructions for the optional spinach - insert them at the ** above.

Two bunches of Fresh spinach or a big bag of salad spinach or whatever looks best at the store.

**Wash and drain the spinach. (You can use a salad spinner to get excess water out or drain it again after cooking). Either put it in a bowl to microwave it - or arrange a saute pan which will hold it on the stove.

***Meanwhile heat 1 tbsp of Olive Oil in a sauté pan over med-high heat and add the spinach in batches until it wilts and its cooked through (about 5-8 minutes). Remove from the pan and drain before serving. Alternatively you can place it in a big bowl with plastic wrap stretched over the top and microwave it on high for 3-4 minutes. It effectively steams the spinach. Remove and drain.

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